^ STRATEGIC STUDIES INSTITUTE
W US ARMY WAR COLLEGE
kOCARLISLE BARRACKS, PENNSYLVANIA
THE US-ISRAEU CONNECTION
MILITARY ISSUES RESEARCH MEMORANDUM
Approved for public release;
The views of the author do not purport to reflect the positions of the
Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.
The US-Israeli “special relationship” has drawn the United States
into a closer and more direct involvement in the Middle East. This
memorandum analyzes the basis for the US-Israeli connection and
various plausible options for the form and structure of future US-lsraeli
relations. The author indicates that, in the absence of a comprehensive
peace settlement, formalization of the relationship is unlikely in order
to retain US flexibility with both Arabs and Israelis. However,
ultimately, some form of formal US bilateral alliance may evolve,
possibly involving US military forces in conjunction with a final peace
settlement. Such a bilateral arrangement would be supplemental to a
multilateral guarantee involving both “superpowers” and perhaps UN
peace observers. In any case, he concludes unless Israel undermines its
American public support, the US-Israeli connection will continue to be
very close, and perhaps even grow stronger.
The Military Issues Research Memoranda program of the Strategic
Studies Institute, US Army War College, provides a means for timely
dissemination of analytical papers which are not necessarily constrained
by format or conformity with institutional policy. These memoranda
' are prepared on subjects of current importance in areas related to the
author’s professional work or interests.
This memorandum was prepared as a contribution to the field of
national security research and study. As such, it does not reflect the
official view of the College, the Department of the Army, or the
Department of Defense.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR
MAJOR HOWARD L. CHAMBERS has been assigned to the Strategic Studies
Institute since 1974. He is a graduate of Florida State University and holds a
bachelor’s degree in government, and master’s degrees in international relations
and in public administration. Major Chambers has been assigned to various
command and staff positions in air defense units in the United States, Greece, and
Korea, and served on the Army Staff in South Vietnam. He is a graduate of the
US Army Command and General Staff College. Major Chambers is a specialist in
the Middle Eastern affairs and his work has been published in a compendium of
articles on national security and detente.
THE US- ISRAELI CONNECTION
Steadfast US support for the State of Israel, a keystone of US
Middle East policy for over 30 years, seems inconsistent and
contradictory when considered in the context of overall US interests
and objectives in the region. The basis of the US-Israeli relationship is
extralegal, not found in formal bilateral treaties or documents, and only
surfaces in the public and private statements of Presidents and other
government officials and in the platforms of competing political parties.
The nature of the relationship is ambiguous, lacking precise definition
and explicit parameters. In the words of one analyst, Israel is “. . . not
quite an ally; in some respects it is a client, but it is in no sense a
puppet of the United States.”! Nonetheless, the ties that bind these
two states are strong and durable-possibly unbreakable-having
withstood the strains of four wars, domestic political and economic
pressures, and strong international criticism. To many observers, the
US-Israeli connection appears to possess its own dynamism which seems
to be drawing the United States almost inexhorably into an increasingly
direct involvement in the complexities of the volatile Middle East and
the attendant dangers of future oil embargoes and possible superpower
In recent years, especially since 1973, with Israel’s increasing
diplomatic isolation and dependence on the United States, Americans
have begun to take a more pragmatic and analytic view of US policy in
support of Israel. Prior to 1973, unquestioning US support was
practically axiomatic. However, the oil embargo awakened the public to
the direct costs of continuing such a policy, and there is a growing
realization in the United States and Israel of the constraints operating
on their relationship. Some analysts have noted indications that US
support for Israel is eroding. Although the course of US-Israeli relations
has seldom run smoothly, to some they seem “rockier than usual these
days.” Because the United States has been unable to sufficiently
influence Israeli policies and actions and Israel fears that the United
States may sacrifice its interests in Israel for its need for Arab oil, a
mutual distrust between the two states exists. One analyst has
characterized their association as “a contradictory relationship of two
close friends who don’t quite trust each other yet don’t want, or can’t
afford, to part.” 2
Despite increasing critical analyses of the US-Israeli connection, the
“special relationship” continues essentially as former Secretary of State
William P. Rogers succinctly summarized in 1970:
It is in our best interest to be sure that Israel survives as a nation. That has
been our policy, and that will continue to be our policy. So we have to
take whatever action we think is necessary to give them the assurance they
need that their independence and sovereignty is going to continue.3
President Gerald R. Ford reiterated this policy shortly after taking
office in 1974 when he assured Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin that
. . we shall continue to stand by Israel. We are committed to Israel’s
survival and security.” 4 He thereby joined virtually every President
since Harry Truman in firmly committing the United States to Israel’s
survival, and the Congress has consistently underwritten that pledge
with large amounts of economic and military assistance.
The future direction of US-Israeli relations has been the subject of
considerable speculation. While some have suggested the need to
weaken or sever the connection, others have advocated strengthening,
even formalizing, the relationship as a means of achieving peace in the
Arab- Israeli dispute. The subject elicits strong emotions and biases
which makes dispassionate and objective analyses difficult. The emotive
nature of the subject notwithstanding, this paper will trace the
evolution of the US-Israeli connection, examine the nature of the
relationship, and project the most likely course it will take in the
EVOLUTION OF US MIDDLE EAST INTERESTS
Prior to World War II, the United States had little interest in the
affairs of the Middle East, except for the nurturing of a rapidly
developing oil industry. The Middle East and the problems of Palestine
were considered the responsibility of the British. However, during the
war, especially from 1942, the US Government came increasingly under
the pressure of a well-organized worldwide Zionist organization
operating through the American Jewish community. The Zionists
sought US support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
The 1944 election campaign witnessed sympathetic expressions of
support for Zionist objectives (by both political parties), the growth of
public support for the Jews, and President Roosevelt’s endorsement of
the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. These events created
considerable concern in the US oil industry and in the State and
Defense Departments where US economic and strategic interests were
feared jeopardized. Thus were sown the seeds of the domestic political
and economic conflict over US interests in the Middle East which grew
to create the internal trauma associated with US Middle East policy for
over 30 years. 5
Although support for the Jewish state grew in US public and
political circles, the United States resisted British attempts, following
World War II, to be drawn into a more active and responsible role in the
Middle East. President Harry Truman believed that “the long-term fate
of Palestine was the kind of problem we have the UN for.” 6 Early US
policy, therefore, was to work through the United Nations or to serve
as mediator in the Palestine problems but to avoid direct involvement.
However, with die postwar collapse of British Middle East policy and
diminishing British influence in die eastern Mediterranean and Middle
East in 1947, a power vacuum was created into which the Soviet Union
attempted to expand. 7 The United States responded to Soviet
expansionism with the Truman Doctrine which embodied the US
determination to contain the spread of communism. This determination
led the United States to assume its first direct and large-scale
responsibility for events in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle
East. Thus, superimposed upon US regional interests in oil and the
establishment of the Jewish state was a third competing interest-the
containment of Soviet expansionism. This desire to keep the Soviet
Union out of the Middle East has remained a major touch-stone of
overall American foreign policy. 8 However, the realization of this
objective was complicated by the advent of the nuclear era, which
increased the risk of pursuing superpower policies in the region and
concomitantly increased the desire of both to avoid direct
On May 14, 1948, the establishment of the State of Israel was
proclaimed and the United States became the first state to extend de
facto recognition to the provisional government. Almost immediately
the Arab armies moved against Israel with the avowed goal of
exterminating the new state and, simultaneously, the US interest was
transformed from establishing the Jewish state to that of preserving it
and ensuring its survival. The de facto recognition of Israel established
the formal beginnings of the US-Israeli connection, and the 1948
conflict marked the formal commencement of the Arab-Israeli disputes
which have been the central focus of US and Soviet Middle East policies
for over 30 years.
The Soviet Union has built its political and military position in the
Middle East since the mid-1950’s through a diplomacy of polarization
developed around the Arab-Israeli conflict. The United States, on the
other hand, has pursued the reactive diplomacy of antipolarization,
frequently called the policy of “evenhandedness.” The United States
backed Israel without formal guarantee, but with implied assurance that
it would not allow the destruction of the state, while continuing its
policy of attempting to maintain friendly relations with the Arab states
through economic and technical assistance programs. 9 A recent
Brookings Institution study reiterated this duplex approach in US
policy: “The United States has a strong interest in the security,
independence, and well-being of Israel and the Arab states of the area
and in the friendship of both.”* 0 Although evenhandedness is not
meant to indicate absolute equality in quantities of assistance, the Arab
states tend to view it in terms of absolute balance, and have difficulty
understanding the policy when US economic assistance to Israel from
1948 to 1974 totaled $1,292 million and tax-exempt private
contributions from American Jews averaged $72 million per year.
During the same period, US economic assistance to the Arab states
totaled $2,002 million, l 1 On a per capita and a per state basis, the level
of US support provided to Israel and the Arabs has clearly favored
Israel in an effort to establish military parity and its economic
For over three decades, the primary US objective has been the
establishment of a stable peace in the region. President Ford stated that
the United States has two primary Middle East objectives: “First, we
seek peace Second, we desire a strong mutually beneficial
relationship with every nation in the Middle East.” 1 ^ The US interest
in achieving a stable peace has been described as a “vital interest” by
the Brookings Institution, 13 and Henry Kissinger has said that “There
is no alternative to the full and active engagement of the United States
in the diplomacy of peace in the Middle East.”** The United States has
been involved in a variety of programs seeking to achieve peace in the
region since 1948, including the Palestine Conciliation Commission, the
Tripartite Declaration of 1950, various UN peace initiatives, twonation
and four-nation peace efforts, the Rogers plans, and the Kissinger
step-by-step diplomacy. Througiout these three decades, the
steadfastness of the US-Israeli connection has endured. Kissinger has
. . . one of the principal ingredients of peace must be the steadfastness that
contributed decisively to the creation of the State of Israel, a steadfastness
which has helped protect Israel’s security for ewer a quarter of a century, a
steadfastness on which Israel can rely in the future. 15
RECONCILING US MIDDLE EAST INTERESTS THE DILEMMA
The following are generally agreed to constitute the catalog of US
interests in the Middle East:
• Avoiding confrontation with the Soviet Union.
• Preventing the establishment of Soviet regional hegemony.
• Contin uing access to oil at reasonable prices for the United States,
West Europe, and Japan.
• The survival of Israel.
• Preventing polarization of regional powers along ideological lines
thus inviting external intervention.
• a « i«ting regional states to move forward on national development.
• Establishing a stable and durable peace in the region. While
essential agreement exists on what American interests are in the Middle
East, there is a lack of agreement as to “the priority of these interests
and the appropriate means of reconciling them where they conflict.” 16
National interests are usually prioritized according to the categories
of “vital ” “major,” and “other.” Here again, no precise definition of
these terms exists. Former Senator J. W. Fulbright has suggested that a
vital interest is “anything which pertains directly to our national
raani. * - . ' - ’
survival, or short of that, something materially discernible pertinent to
the security and well-being of the people.”! 7 The difflcultices in
operationalizing this broad definition are apparent. A better definition
is offered by Bernard Brodie, who considers a vital interest one which
directly affects the continued existence of the nation and its
institutions as perceived by its leadership and represents their subjective
judgments about important foreign policy issues.! * While this
definition is also difficult to operationalize, it suggests some important
characteristics of a vital interest:
• It directly involves life and death of the society and its
• It is subjective.
• It is established by the nation’s leadership.
• Its perception may be affected by the existing domestic and
international environment. Therefore, perceptions of vital interests, and
indeed of all national interests, are subject to change, not capricously,
but responsively, as significant changes occur in the domestic and
international environment over time.
From World War II through October 1973, the United States
generally afforded to its interest in Israel a higher priority than to its
other interests in the Middle East. It was implicitly, but not officially, a
vital interest. A small minority of dissenting voices was faintly
discernible in this period, but it was not until the effects of the Arab oil
embargo were experienced by the American public and pressure from
allies was brought to bear that serious and very audible challenges to
the traditional priority of interests became evident and indications of
an “erosion” of US support for Israel became apparent. The Arab
employment of the oil weapon struck at what may v.>ell be the basic
dilemma in US Middle East interests- the inherent dilemma between
idealism and pragmatism. Professor Eugene Rostow of Yale believes
that the problem of our policy priorities in the region requires “a
national, and not a sentimental or a partisan, approach. What is at stake
for us . . . should be examined in the perspective of the national
interest, not of sympathy for either the Arabs or the Israelis.”! 9 Henry
Kissinger also subscribes to this view as is apparent from a conversation
he had with the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia:
. . . Our best argument is not to say that we’re anti-Israeli or pro- Arab, but
that we want peace in the Middle East and that we’re pursuing the interests
of the United States. If we try to put it on the basis of the merits of the
Arab-Israeli dispute, there will always be more people defending Israel than
the Arab side. So we have to put it in terms of American national
J. W. Fulbright considers the US interest in Israel “emotional and
ideological” 2 1 and contends that “access to oil is the greater of our
interests in the Middle East, a vital interest, whereas our commitment
to Israel is a less-than-vital interest.” 22 While stating that it is not
necessary to sacrifice one interest for the other, he believes that,
because of the growing US dependency on Arab oil, the practical
approach is to give priority to access to oil while endeavoring to
reconcile both interests. Others also subscribe to this thesis and even
suggest that the United States divorce itself from its de facto
commitment to Israel as a practical matter of economics and in the
interest of world peace and stability.
Another aspect of the dilemma of US interests in the Middle East
involves the paradoxical relationship between the US support for Israel
and its desire to prevent expansion of Soviet influence and to avoid
superpower confrontation situations in the region. The principal basis
of Soviet influence in the region has been the Arab-Israeli conflict. The
conflict has presented the opportunity for expanding Soviet influence
which has been compounded by US steadfast support foT Israel. A
peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli disputes would significantly
diminish Soviet influence in the Middle East. On the other hand,
continued US political and military support for Israel significantly
contributes to continued Soviet presence and influence in the Middle
East, arms buildups, and potential for superpower confrontation.
Despite these apparent conflicts in US interests and increasing calls
for a more pragmatic approach to US policy in the Middle East, the
US-Israeli connection remains strong, viable, and a principal element in
US Middle East policies. What accounts for the strength and durability
of this special relationship? Upon what is the American commitment to
THE NATURE OF THE US-ISRAELI CONNECTION
The unique historical relationship that exists between the United
States and Israel is not easily understood or explained in terms of
tangible linkages. Rather, the ties that bind these two states are
founded on more abstruse factors. For purposes of this discussion, the
various aspects of this relationship will be examined under the
categories of ideological, political, economic, military, cultural, and
Ideological aspects. Many Americans believe that the US-Israeli
relationship is based on mutual ideological affinities. According to
Franz Shurmann, “No United States commitment more exemplifies
democratic imperialism than that to Israel.” 2 3 Until the early 1970’s,
Shurmann asserts the commitment to Isr'«l “was clearly ideological."
He suggests that “Israel was a democu.ic experiment in a feudal
backwater which would someday spread light and progress to the entire
Middle East” and that it exemplified the Democratic Party’s consistent
ideology “that a progressive, socialist, pro-American and
non-Communist state could arise.” 24 It is also frequently asserted in
American academic and political circles that Israel is the most
democratically-styled state in the Middle East and that a commonality
of ideological purposes exists between the United States and Israel. On
June 1 1, 1975, President Ford stated that the basis of the fundamental
US-Israeli relationship was the sharing of a desire for the fundamental
human values of freedom, independence, and the right of each
individual to live in peace. 25 It has been reiterated on numerous
occasions by US and Israeli leaders that the two countries share a deep
devotion to democratic ideals. Furthermore, Henry Kissinger has
asserted that “Israel and the United States are bound together in
common purposes-a world envisaged in the Charter of the United
Nations, a world in which the resort to force becomes unnecessary and
disputes are resolved by peaceful means. ”2 6 it seems clear that the
United States perceives an ideological linkage with the State of
Political aspects. Probably the single most significant clement of the
US-Israeli connection is the US domestic political factor. The
connection to Israel is particularly strong in domestic US politics due to
the high level of political activism characteristic of the American Jewish
Community. John C. Campbell has stated:
The organized Jewish Community exerts a potential influence not
primarily in votes . . . but rather in its financial contributions to political
causes and in prominence of its members in the media of communication
and other fields of public and private life. Its voice comes through loud and
clear at the White House and in the Congress. This is a political ieality. 2 7
The American Jewish Community is a very powerful “political reality”
in US domestic politics. The Jewish population constitutes slightly less
'ia i-vm— u.
than 3 percent of the total American population or about six million
people. Dr. Alfred Lilienthal, editor of Middle East Perspective, observes
that 85 percent of the Jewish population is concentrated in 16 cities in
5 states-New York, California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which
collectively cast a total of 164 of the 270 electoral votes required to
elect a President 28 While the inference that the Jewish vote is the
major element in electing Presidents is ludicrous, American Jews do
tend to be very politically active and have very high voting participation
percentages. For this reason, the Jewish vote, which comprises only 4
percent of the total national vote, is actively sought by both parties.
However, the Jewish Community is not politically monolithic and is
not unanimous in its support of US political candidates, Israel, or
Zionism. Nonetheless, every Presidential campaign since 1948 has
found both parties’ platforms solidly behind Israel and, in the 1976
campaign, no candidate declared or implied opposition to Israel. Jews
have also served in senior positions of the administrations of both
parties and provide a large number of Capitol Hill staffers. Presently,
Jews serving in high positions include Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger; Attorney General Edward Levi; Chairman of the Council of
Economic Advisors, Alan Greenspan; and Arthur Bums, Chairman of
the Federal Reserve. There have also been several Jewish Justices of the
Supreme Court- Brandeis, Cardozo, Frankfurter, and Goldberg.
Although they do not tun for political office in large numbers, there are
3 Jewish Senators, 20 Representatives in the House, and 2 State
Perhaps a more important political influence of the American Jewish
Community is the financial contribution it makes to political
candidates. In the last two Presidential elections, according to I. L.
Kenan, Chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC), Jewish contributors donated more than half of the
contributions of $10,000 and larger to Democratic candidates. 30
Individuals, neighborhood groups, and local Jewish organizations
contribute heavily to political campaigns. It is not only the Jewish vote,
but also the Jewish money that political parties seek.
Finally, a very strong political force influencing the US domestic
political scene in favor of Israel is the AIPAC, an umbrella group for
Jewish lobbying for Israel. 31 The lobby blends a well-staffed and
articulate professional group in Washington with the normally
undirected articulation of Jewish sentiment nationwide. According to
Rowland Evans and Robert Novak of The Washington Post, its efforts
are covertly directed from Israel. 32 AIPAC is generally considered a
strong and persuasive political influence and its success is generally
attributed to a combination of US national interests, widespread public
support, Jewish community activism, and an effective Washington
operation. 3 3 The pervasive support of the general American populace,
however, is critical to the effectiveness of the operation. Without this
base of support, the Israeli case would be considerably weaker in
Congress. In recent years much has been heard about the “erosion” of
popular support for Israel. However, Leslie Gelb of The New York
Times surveyed Congress extensively in 1974 and found that it was
“not less pro-Israel” and that there was no apparent threat to
traditional congressional support for Israel. 34 A Harris poll completed
in January 197S indicated that, rather than slipping, support for Israel
was at 52 percent, a record peak.3S Admittedly, polls, are not always
the most accurate measures of true public opinion and then results
frequently conflict. However, polls taken over the years have tended to
confirm the support of the American public for Israel. Kissinger, when
asked about eroding public support, remarked “. . . Abba Eban once
told me that Israel considered objectivity 100 percent agreement with
their point of view.” Kissinger went on to say that “although there has
been a deterioration of general US willingness to give foreign aid, I
think Israel has suffered less from that deterioration than almost any
other country. ”36 Generally, public and congressional support for
Israel has not “eroded,” but reflects an evolving awareness of the
broader issues involved and a greater appreciation of the Arab
The strength of US political support for Israel is reflected in the
actions of the Congress in recent years. On May 26, 1970, 71 Senators
wrote to Secretary of State Rogers urging shipment of jets to Israel and,
in 1973, 70 Senators and 264 Representatives cosponsored resolutions
calling for additional jets for Israel. 3 7 On May 22, 1975, 76 Senators
sent a letter to President Ford urging him to “make it clear” that the
United States “stands firmly with Israel” by, among other things,
supporting “a level of military and economic support adequate to deter
a renewal of war by Israel’s neighbors.” 3 8 In 1946, President Harry
Truman stated very succinctly the essence of US political support for
Israel past and present when, in opposition to State Department
advisors on the issue of supporting the creation of a Jewish state, he
said, “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of
thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have
hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” 39 The
domestic political influence available to Israel in the United States is a
major element in the strength and durability of the US-Israeli
connection. It also has significant impact on the making of US policy.
Edward Sheehan, in stating to a Kissinger aide that Israel’s American
constituency is the greatest constraint upon US policy, reports that the
aide replied, “Of course. And the constraint becomes the
Israel has become increasingly diplomatically isolated in the
international community which has increased her political and
economic dependence on the United States. This situation has given the
United States considerable political leverage over Israel and that
leverage was employed during the October 1973 War, the 1974
disengagement talks, and in the 1975 Sinai discussions. However, that
leverage is complicated by Israeli national pride and a distrust of US
Economic aspects. The Israeli economy, since 1973, has been in
serious trouble with inflation running at 20-30 percent; a balance of
payments deficit of about $4 billion; and diminished growth in the
GNP, though it is still increasing at a rate of about 5 percent. 4 • The
United States is the principal external source of funds for Israel. The
1973 oil embargo and the Arab trade blacklist reduced Israel’s foreign
trade receipts and increased its economic dependence on the United
States. The United States has provided $2.8 billion in economic
assistance including about $650 million in Food for Peace (Public Law
480) to Israel since 1948, 42 and plans to provide $819 million,
including $9 million in food imports and $25 million for housing loan
guarantees for fiscal year 1977. 43 Although US-Israeli trade is not
significant in the overall context of US trade, it is very important to
Israel. The United States in 1974 remained Israel’s largest supplier with
a market share of 18 percent. With the signing of the 1975 Sinai
agreement, Israel has become increasingly dependent on the United
States for economic support-especially in the area of petroleum.
In addition to US economic assistance and trade, the American
Jewish Community is also a significant source of additional funds for
Israel. A strong empathetic connection between Jews in the United
States, and elsewhere in the world, exists with the state of Israel. The
desire to help is strong and, facilitated by a tax exemption granted to
US charities, the Jewish Community funnels large amounts of money to
Israel through the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). Between 1948 and
^ -r. -- : -fiw.
1971, the UJA provided almost $1,654 million to Israel. The American
Jewish Joint Distribution Center also invested over $200 million in its
programs in Israel for the same period. Another valuable source of
funds has been the five State of Israel Bond issues floated world-wide
since 1951, of which American Jews bought $1,588 million.
Philanthropic programs by American Jewish agencies have also been an
important source of funds for Israel’s economy. 44 The magnitude of
the US Government investment and that of the American Jewish
Community are important aspects of the US-lsraeli connection.
Military aspects. The US military commitment to Israel’s security
has been expensive in terms of cost, risk, and US readiness. Until 1962,
Britain, West Germany, and France were the principal suppliers of
military equipment to Israel. However, with the sale of HAWK air
defense missiles in 1962, the United States entered the market and,
after the 1967 war, was the only major source of arms to which Israel
could turn. From 1962 until 1975, the United States provided Israel
with a total of $4.2 billion in military assistance 45 and will provide
$1.5 billion in fiscal year 1976 and probably another $1 billion will be
requested for 1977. Therefore, by 1977, the total US military
investment will be almost $7 billion. Of this total, $1.5 billion are
grants and $750 million of the fiscal year 1977 request will be forgiven.
In becoming the principal supplier of arms to Israel, the United
States risked confrontation with the Soviet Union and possible nuclear
war twice-in 1967 and 1973. To a Soviet threat of military
intervention in 1967, President Johnson moved the US Sixth Fleet to
within 50 miles of the Syrian coast and, in October 1973, a worldwide
alert of US forces was ordered in response to a similar Soviet threat.
Thus, history records at least two instances where the United States
demonstrated an intention to come to the active military assistance of
Israel even to point of confrontation with the USSR. In addition, the
Israeli requirements following the 1973 war were so great that, in order s
to meet them, the United States drew equipment from military stocks
in Europe and from reserve units thus risking degradation of its own
readiness posture. These events demonstrate the intensity of the US
commitment to Israeli security. Furthermore, US support for Israel has ■£
also created conflict with the European Allies and Japan and an
increasing US isolation in the United Nations. The conflict between the
essentiality of oil for the NATO Allies and the US commitment to %
Israel has created tensions within the Alliance that have been divisive
and disintegrative. The United Nations vote on the issues of Zionism
and Israeli membership typifies the increasing strength of anti-Israeli
forces and the increasing isolation of the United States because of its
support for Israel.
Cultural aspects. The US-Israeli connection is also influenced by a
cultural-psychological web established between the American public
and Israel. President Ford said, “The United States and Israel
share ... a special opportunity as two kindred peoples, and common
moral and political values that flow from the great Judeo-Christian
heritage.” 46 American Jews feel an ethnic and religious affinity for the
Jews of Israel and their attachment has, in various ways, worked to
draw the two countries closer to each other. Many American Jews have
friends and family living in Israel. Their massive financial support,
emigration, and frequent pilgrimages have strengthened the cultural and
economic linkage through direct infusion of funds into die Israeli
economy. Indirectly Urey have been instrumental in strengthening the
cultural linkage by the importation of American movies, books, and
music, which have also contributed to the Israeli economy and to
making Israel one of the most “Americanized” and America-conscious
countries in the world. The American Jewish cultural aspect of the
US-tsraeli relationship has also had impact on Israeli political decisions.
The Israeli Government has been careful not to take, except under
extreme circumstances, any action which would alienate the support of
the American Jewish Community.
The American public, in general, identifies with the Israeli
pioneering spirit, which is reminiscent of their own historical frontier
experience. Americans also have a natural tendency to support the
underdog wherever found-in sports or politics. Prime Minister Rabin
was undoubtedly aware of this American cultural trait when, on a
recent US visit, he said, “And if there is something that symbolizes
Israel today, it is the spirit of David facing Goliath ... I believe that
this is what is significant in Israel today, the spirit of David seeking
peace and, at the same time, being ready and capable to meet some
Aside from the obvious religious association between American Jews
and Israel, there is also an awareness amonp American Christians,
engendered by a common Judeo-Christian heritage, that a religious
linkage with Israel exists. Many in the American Christian Community
see a close religious connection between the present State of Israel and
the Israel of the Old Testament and Biblical prophesy. They believe
that the words of the Prophet Ezekial were fulfilled in (948, “Behold, I
will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have
gone . . . and bring them to their own land; and I will make them one
nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel . . .” 48 Furthermore,
they believe that events since 1948 have fulfilled the message of
Obadiah, “Behold, I will make you small among nations, you shall be
utterly despised.” 49 Some also believe that failure to support Israel by
any nation will bring divine punishment as recorded in die apocalyptic
writing of Zechariah, “And on that day I will seek to destroy ail the
nations that come against Jerusalem.” 50 The messianic tradition
fundamental to the Christian faith also accounts for the close affinity
that the Christian Community feels for Israel and its concern for the
future of the Israeli state.
A final cultural aspect of the US-Israeli relationship involves the
tendency of Americans to categorize or group people according to the
force of kinship between them- along such lines as culture, religion, and
ethnicity. The New Yorker magazine observed that: “The true reason
we are loyal to Israel- and the reason our involvement with her is
different from that of Vietnam-may be that Israel is a member of our
extended family, of our tribe...” 51 Perhaps this is what Henry
Kissinger had in mind when he said “. . . given the special relationship
and affection that exists between us and Israel, our
disagreements ... are in nature of family quarrels.” 52 Few Americans
would admit to this kindred relationship because it seems irrational and
smacks of “Archie Bunkerism,” but those who have travelled to
disparate cultural areas of the world are aware of the existence of this
Moral aspects. The United States has recognized an “historical and
moral” commitment to Israel which has roots in the Nazi holocaust of
World War II. All Western states felt a degree of guilt and moral
obligation following the war, which culminated in the establishment of
the State of Israel. This was especially true of the United States, which
stands as a bulwark of democracy, a refuge from persecution, and the
most humanitarian nation in history. As J. W. Fulbright has said, “Israel
if a creation of the conscience of the West, particularly that of the
United States.” 55 Henry Kissinger has declared that the United States
is “convinced that Israel’s survival is inseparable from the future of
human dignity, and we shall never forget that Israel’s security has a
special claim on the conscience of mankind.” Furthermore, Kissinger
says that the United States and Israel are bound together, not by legal
documents, but by “a moral connection which cannot be severed." 54
It is clear that the nature of the US-Israeli relationship and the basis
upon which it rests is the result of the interaction of diverse domestic
factors in both countries. This examination reveals that the US-Israeli
linkage is a strong connection, and it is built upon intangible, often
unexplainable, but very durable foundations. The key factors
accounting for the strength of the connection appear to be the specific
support of the American Jewish Community and the general support of
the American public. Will it continue to endure in the future? In the
final analysis, how far is the United States willing to go in supporting
the security and survival of Israel?
THE FUTURE OF THE CONNECTION
Normative studies of possible futures for the US-Israeli relationship
have been a popular pastime in recent years. The central focus of these
analyses is normally the role the United States should play in a
comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement and how that role will
relate to Israeli security and survival. The purpose of this discussion is
not normative, but, rather, it is to project the most likely future based
upon the previous analysis of the nature of the US-Israeli relationship
and objective factors which may be operating in the future
A final peace settlement is the pivotal issue around which revolves
the future direction of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the US Israeli
US-Israeli relations prior to or in the absence of a peace settlement.
Prior to the achievement of a final peace settlement, little change can
be expected in the current US role in the Middle East or its relationship
with Israel. Of all the external states involved in the region, the United
States probably has the most influence with the Arabs and Israel and,
according to Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, “holds all the cards” in the Middle
East. A formal US bilateral treaty with Israel in conjunction with a
multilateral guarantee of peace terms has been suggested by many,
including J. W. Fulbright.55 Going still further, Richard Ullman has
suggested a formal US-Israeli treaty which would include the stationing
of US troops in Israel as a credible guarantee of peace.** However,
formalizing the relationship with Israel by an explicit treaty of
guarantee in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied
territories as inducement for peace negotiations would clearly limit US
diplomatic freedom of maneuver and remove the trust the Arabs have
in her. In addition, as Stanley Hoffman has observed, such a treaty of
guarantee could become a substitute for a settlement and would give
Israel a lien on US Middle East policy 57 Futhermore, a very likely
Arab response to such a treaty would be to seek formal commitments
from the Soviet Union, possibly including military forces, which would
then place the superpowers in a confrontation situation which both
seek to avoid. However, the current situation of “no war, no peace”
cannot exist indefinitely. The political, economic, and military
dependence of Israel on the United States is undesirable and unpopular
in both countries. In fact, the alleged possession of nuclear weapons can
be viewed as an attempt by Israel to establish its independence in the
final analysis, and Robert Tucker has suggested that the United States
should encourage and assist the development of an Israeli nuclear
deterrent as an effective means of reducing dependence on the United
States. 58 The Israelis pride themselves on their independence and seek
to stand alone. The role of dependent is detrimental to their national
pride and is likely, if prolonged, to create increased domestic political
conflict and instability. In the United States, Israeli dependence over a
prolonged period will also have detrimental impact on the special
relationship. The economic burden can and probably will be sustained
as long as the American public discerns an Israeli interest in reaching a
peace settlement. Intransigence, however, would seriously undermine
Israeli support even in the American Jewish Community. Therefore,
over a prolonged period of no peace and no war, US support would
probably decline dramatically unless the Israelis were successful in
convincing the American public that the lack of peace was no fault of
There is growing evidence that a fifth round of the Arab-lsraeli
conflict is becoming increasingly possible, despite an apparent interest
by all parties concerned in resuming the Geneva peace conference- If
another war occurs, the US-Israeli relationship will be severely strained
because of the likely increase in the economic and military burden on
the United States. Further drawdowns from war reserve stockpiles
would be required thus creating an increased risk for US military
readiness. Most polls support the conclusion of the January 197S Harris
poll that the US public favors economic and military equipment
support but does not favor use of US military forces to protect
Israel. 5 9 US public opinion polls, however, usually reflect emotional
rather than rational, reasoned responses and they are highly dependent
upon the prevailing situation. In addition, they can be influenced by
the national leadenhip. Therefore, a poll taken with Israel under attack
in a conflict in which they were not the perpetrators would probably
reflect a public willingness to send troops. If Israel’s survival were
deemed by the United States to be in jeopardy, US air and naval power
would probably be considered immediately by the President. US
ground forces would be introduced only as a last resort. In view of the
dynamic factors operating on the US-Israeli relationship, congressional
consent would very possibly be afforded.
US-Ismeii relations and a final peace settlement A final peace
settlement will most likely involve significant readjustment of the
present Israeli borders and the establishment of a Palestinian political
entity. No attempt will be made here to suggest the details of such a
settlement. However, a major consideration in the achievement of this
settlement will, of necessity, involve provisions for the security and
legitimization of the State of Israel <md the new Palestinian entity.
Because the credibility of any signed treaty between the Arabs and
Israel is likely to be low, credible external guarantees of its provisions
will be necessary. Henry Kissinger acknowledged this fact when he
stated that any final peace settlement “will undoubtedly require for its
enforcement some international and-in my view, very probably- some
American guarantees.” 60 The inherent instability of hostile states with
traditional and deeply-rooted animosities living as neighbors; the
insecurity of Israel; and the strong US desire for peace in the region will
drive the United States into a more direct involvement with Israel and
the Arab states in the region. The need to extend guarantees as part of
or as supplements to the settlement will probably strengthen the
US-Israeli connection and the nature of the foundation of the
relationship discussed previously will serve to support the establishment
of US guarantees.
Alan Dowty and N. A. Pelcovits have done extensive studies of the
possibilities for implementing security guarantees in the Middle East.
While Pelcovits believes that bilateral and international assurances could
reinforce a settlement at the proper time, Dowty suggests that
multilateral guarantees offer the best option as opposed to unilateral or
joint guarantees by the superpowers. 61 Others have recommended the
unilateral introduction of US military forces or joint US-USSR military
forces to serve in peace-keeping or peace-enforcing roles as part of a
guarantee for final settlement. 62 However, the introduction of forces
by the great powers would have the effect of localizing their global
rivalry and increasing the threat of confrontation and conflict.
Furthermore, a joint superpower guarantee would give each the power
to veto or obstruct action, which would, in effect, negate the guarantee.
The necessity to involve the superpowers, especially the United States,
is generally acknowledged by all parties involved. Although the United
States exercises the greatest influence with both Arabs and Israelis, at
least minimal participation in the final settlement by the Soviet Union
is required in order to secure a stable agreement. While both
superpowers must be involved, to some extent, in the creation of the
final agreement, the recognized limitations and risks of unilateral and
joint superpower guarantees require that the implementation of
guarantees be multilateral. Such multilateral guarantees must be
supported by a broad variety of states which have a direct interest in
the maintenance of the peace treaty. Although international guarantees
of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the states involved will
probably be a part of the settlement, Israeli distrust of external powers,
fostered by her historical experience in the international community,
will cause her to turn to the only power she Uusts (the United States)
for explicit supplemental guarantees for her security and sovereignty.
While the United States will probably continue to resist formalizing its
commitment to Israel, explicit guarantees for continued military
assistance, to include limited use of US military forces in the event of
the failure of multilateral guarantees, will probably be made at the
Executive level. To preclude reciprocal Soviet action, the United States
could also offer similar guarantees to the involved Arab states. If this
step is unsuccessful and the Soviets succeed in establishing bilateral
guarantees, formal or informal, with the Arab states, the situation
would become unstable and the risk of superpower confrontation could
A peace settlement will not be immediately stable. Arms transfers
will probably continue to both sides and, until control of this complex
issue can be implemented, the threat to regional peace will continue to
require US military assistance to Israel to ensure her capability for
self-defense. In addition, the animosities existing between Arabs and
Israelis will only subside over an extended period of peace. Therefore,
regional political and economic cooperation between the Arabs and
Israelis will probably not be effective for a considerable period and
Israeli economic dependency on the United States will probably
continue for the foreseeable future.
The US-Israeli connection has been an open-ended, informal, and
contradictory association which has proven to be increasingly strong
and durable-possibly unbreakable- for the past three decades. Based
upon strong ideological, political, economic, military, cultural, and
moral linkages, the relationship has created a basic US foreign policy
^Tt _tha ‘ ° f reconcUin 8 conflicting US national interests in the
Middle East. That dilemma has consistently been resolved in favor of
preserving the “special relationship” between the two states and the
forseeable trend in US-lsraeU relations is for a continued and perhaps
closer association in the future.
1. Thomas Griffith, “How Deep is the US Commitment to Israel?" Time,
October 29, 1973, p. 71. „ _ , ,
2. Robert Keatley, “Our Nervous Alliance with Israel, Wall Street Journal,
June 24, 1975, p. 18. . __ „„„
3. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1618, June 29, 1970, p. 790.
4. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1841, October 7, 1974, p. 468.
5. For a more detailed account of the early evolution of US support for the
Zionists see Howard M. Sacker, The Course of Modem Jewish History, New York:
Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1958; Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation, New
York: W.W. Norton and Co. Inc., 1969; Evan M. Wilson, “The American Interest
in die Palestine Question and the Establishment of Israel,” The Annals, Vol 401,
May 1972, pp. 64-73; and Walter Lacquer, A History of Zionism, New York:
Holt, Winston and Rinehart, Inc., 1972.
6. Acheson, p. 233.
7 For a more detailed elaboration of Soviet objectives in the Middle fcaset
see Soviet Objectives in the Middle East, London: Institute for the Study of
Conflict, January 1974 and M. Confino and S. Shamir, eds., The USSR and the
Middle East, Jerusalem: Israel University Press, 1973.
8. William R. Polk, The United States and the Arab World, 3d ed.,
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975, p. 366.
9. J. C. Hurewitz, “Superpower Rivalry and the Arab-Istaeli Dispute:
Involvement or Commitment?" in The USSR and the Middle East, ed. by M.
Confino and S. Shamir, pp. 162-163.
10. Brookings Institution, Toward Peace in the Middle East, pp. 5-6.
11. US Agency for International Development (USAID), US Overseas Loans
and Grants and Assistance from International Organizations, July 1, 1945-June
30 ' Department of State Bulletin, No. 1900, November 24, 1975, p. 721.
13. Brookings Institution, p. 5.
14. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1881, July 14, 1975, p. 54.
15. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1892, September 29, 1975, p. 460.
16. J. W. Fulbright, Beyond the Interim Agreement, text of keynote address
before 29th Annual Conference of the Middle East Institute, October 3, 1975, p.
17. J. W. Fulbright, “Energy and the Middle East,” Vital Speeches of the Day,
March 15, 1975, p. 331. ^ w
18. Bernard Brodie, War and Politics, New York and London: The Macmillan
Co., 1973, pp. 341-348.
19. Foreign Policy Recarch Association, Great Decisions 76, p. 8.
20. Edward R. F. Sheehan, “Step By Step in the Middle East,” Foreign Policy,
Spring 1976, p. 21.
21. Fulbright, Beyond the Interim Agreement, p. 4.
22. Fulbright, “Energy and the Middle East,” p. 333.
23. Franz Shurman, The Logic of World Power, New York: Pantheon Books,
1974, p. 534.
• PPWII '->> "W-...I * i»4J. .p^--^^^-p..M.m«!-iW PU J | . W |...l W i.:.. W ,^»., JJ . l ..l» W .|..^. M p
25. Depmtment of State Bulletin, No. 1880, July 13, 1975, pp. 9-10.
26. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1892, September 29, 1975, pp.
27. Polk, p.437.
28. US Congress, Senate, Committee an Foreign Relations, Emergency
Military Assistance for Israel and Cambodia, Hearings, 93rd Congress., 1st Session,
Washington: GPO, 1973, pp. 137-139.
29. "American Jews and Israel,” Time, March 10, 1975, p. 24.
30. US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, p. 129.
31. “Israel’s Lobby,” Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, August 30,
1975, pp. 1871-1875.
32. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Israel’s Lobbying,” The Washington
Post, November 10, 1975, p. C7.
33. “Israel’s Lobby,” Congresional Quarterly Weekly Report, p. 1875.
34. Tom Wicker, “Erosion Need Not be Fatal,” The New York Times,
February 16, 1975, p. 15E.
35. Louis Harris, “Oil or Israel?,” The New York Times Magazine, April 6,
1975, p. 21.
36. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1872, May 12, 1975, p. 610.
37. “American Jews and Israel,” Time, p. 24.
38. Keatley, p. 18.
39. Harry B. Ellis, Challenge in the Middle East, New York: Ronald Press Co.,
1960, p. 93.
40. Sheehan, p. 67.
41. US Department of Commerce, Overseas Buaness Reports, OBR 75-47,
November 1975, p. 3.
42. USAID, p. 17.
43. Bernard Gwertzman, “US Plans to Cut 1977 Aid to Israel,” The New York
Times, January 27, 1976, p. 1.
44. US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, pp. 60-71.
45. USAID, p. 17.
46. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1913, February 23, 1976, p. 221.
47. Ibid, p. 471.
48. Ezekiel 37:21-22 (Revised Standard Version).
49. Obadiah 1 : 2 (Revised Standard Version).
50. Zechariah 12:9 (Revised Standard Version).
51. “Talk of the Town,” The New Yorker, February 2, 1976, p. 25.
52. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1863, March 10, 1975, p. 284.
53. J. W. Fulbright, “American Interests in the Middle East,” The Washington
Post, July 7, 1975, p. 3. See also Fulbright speech, “The Clear and Present
Danger,” Vital Speeches of the Day, December 1, 1974, p. 105.
54. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1928, June 7, 1976, p. 721.
55. J. W. Fulbright, “American Interests in the Middle East, p. 3.
56. Richard H. Ullman, “Alliance with Israel,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1975,
p. 21. See also his “After Rabat: Middle East Risks and American Roles," Foreign
Affairs, January 1975, pp. 284ff.
57. Stanley Hoffman, “A New Policy for Israel,” Foreign Affairs, April 1975,
58. Robert W. Tucker, “Israel and the United States: From Dependence to
Nuclear Weapons?,” Commentary, November 1975, pp. 38-43.
59. Harris, p. 23.
60. Department of State Bulletin, No. 1881, July 14, 1975, p. 62.
61. Alan Dowty, “The Application of International Guarantees to the
Egypt-Iinel Conflict,” The Journal of Conflict Retolution, June 1972, pp.
264-266 and N. A. Pelcowits, Security Guarantees in a Middle East Settlement,
1976, p. 55.
62. For a discussion of Soviet guarantees, see Abraham Becker, Moscow and
The Middle East Settlement: A Role For Soviet Guarantees?, Santa Monica: Rand
Corporation, October 1975.
Brookings Institution. Toward Peace in the Middle Eatt, Washington: 1975.
Bryzinski, Zbrignieu, et at., “Peace in An International Framework.” Foreign
Policy, No. 19, Summer 1975, pp. 3-17.
Confino, M. and Shamir, S., eds. The USSR and the Middle Eatt. Jerusalem: Israel
Univerrities Press, 1973.
Dowty, Alan. “The Application of International Guarantees to the Egypt-1 trael
Conflict” The Journal of Conflict Retoludon, VoL 16, No. 2, June 1972, pp.
Draper, Theodore. “The United States and Israel: Tilt in die Middle East?”
Commentary. VoL 59, No. 4, April 1975, pp. 29-45.
Griffith, Thomas. “How Deep is the US Commitment to Israel?” Thru, October
29, 1973, p. 76.
Harris, Louis. “Oil or Israel?” The New York Timet Magazine, April 6, 1975, pp.
Hoffman, Stanley. “A New Policy for IsraeL” Foreign Afftirt, VoL 53, No. 3,
April 1975, pp. 405431.
Gelb, Leslie. “If Israel Totters, Will the US Reach Out?” The New York Timet,
December 1, 1974, p. 2E.
Keatley, Robert “Our Nervous Alliance with IsraeL” Wall Street Journal, June
24, 1975, p. 18.
M organ thau, Hans. “The Geopolitics of Israel’s SurvivaL” The New Leader, VoL
56, No. 25, December 24, 1973, pp. 4-6.
Pelcovits, N. A. Security Guaranteet in a Midtie Eatt Settlement. Foreign Policy
Papers, VoL 2, No. 5, Beverly Hills and London: Sage Publications, 1976.
Safran, Nadav. “Engagement in the Middle East" Foreign Affairs, VoL 53, No. 1,
October 1974, pp. 45-63.
Sheehan, Edward. “Step By Step in the Middle East.” Foreign Policy, No. 22,
Spring 1976, pp. 3-70.
Tucker, Robert W. “Israel and the United States: From Dependence to Nuclear
Weapons?” Commentary, VoL 60, No. 5, November 1975, pp. 2943.
Ullman, Richard H. “After Rabat: Middle East Risks and American Roles”
Foreign Affairt, VoL 53, No. 2, January 1975, pp. 284-296.
UUman, Richard H. “Alliance with IsraeL” Foreign Policy, No. 19, Summer 1975,
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ACN 76055 %/
HE US - ISRAELI CONNECTION,
Howard L. /Chambers
Strategic Studies Institute
US Army War College
Carlisle Barracks, PA 17013
Approved for public release; distribution unlimited
nvrweuTioM st axemen t ft *• •
KEY fONM (Cm ill— m ww w «Mi « mmm t m* iMwtffp *r Mm*
US- Israeli "special relationship"; security guarantees; bilateral guarantees;
multilateral guarantees; comprehensive peace settlement; US-lsraeli bilateral
treaty; American** Israel I Public Affairs Committee; US commitment; Arab-lsraell
disputes; American Jewish Community
i m M.
The US**lsraeli "special relationships has drawn the United States into a
closer and more direct involvement In the Middle East. This memorandum analyzes
the basis for the US-lsraell connection and various plausible options for the
form and structure of future US- Israel I relations. The author indicates that,
In the absence of a comprehensive peace settlement, formalization of the relatlo
Is unlikely In order to retain US flexibility with both Arabs and Israelis.
However, ultimately, some form of formal US bilateral alliance may evolve.
tomom or i nov wno
ay \ f .
"" / 72A J
possibly Involving US military forces in conjunction with a final peace settle-
ment. Such a bilateral arrangement would be supplemental to a multilateral
guarantee Involving both “superpowers" and perhaps UN peace observers. In any
case, he concludes unless Israel undermines Its American public support, the
US-lsraell connection will continue to be very close, and perhaps even grow
Lt 7 3 £
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